The last couple of years must have been a whirlwind for Stephen Curry. Last season, he made history by becoming the first player to win the MVP Award by a unanimous vote. He led the Golden State Warriors through the NBA’s most fantastic regular season, ever. Unfortunately, they tripped at the finish line in the worst possible way, coughing up their 3-1 Finals series lead to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Since then, his numbers just aren’t what they were. How has that season, and the Warriors’ acquisition of Kevin Durant, changed Curry’s play?
Stephen Curry – Sharing the Floor
Last year, the league practically threw the MVP trophy at Stephen Curry – a vote for anybody else would have been a travesty. Curry averaged 30.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 6.7 assists for his MVP campaign. From long range, Curry was a sniper: he made 402 3-pointers over the regular season, crushing the league’s – and his own – previous record of 286. He cemented his spot as one of the greatest shooters of all time, entering the 50-40-90 club (percentages for FG, 3PT FG, and FT) for the second straight year.
Only six other players are in that club. Those are Larry Bird, Reggie Miller, Mark Price, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki… and Kevin Durant.
The biggest reason Stephen Curry’s numbers have dropped is also the most obvious. Sharing the team with Durant has meant sharing the ball more often. It means stepping out of the limelight momentarily so another can occasionally step in. Durant is having something of an MVP season himself, scoring 25.9 points per game on an extremely efficient 53.7%.
This season, Curry is averaging 24.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 5.9 assists – all drops from his 2016 run. But is this such a bad thing from a 2-time MVP?
Saving the Best for Last
The sobering loss in last year’s Finals has taught Curry something: the best players save their best for last. LeBron James is 5 years Curry’s senior and has long since learned this lesson. You can see this in the way Curry celebrates less now in the regular season. Wins and big plays aren’t punctuated by huge celebrations, not like last year, when winning 73 games seemed like the most important thing. He doesn’t beat his chest with the same bravado as he did before. He reserves a modest pump of the fist for those kinds of moments.
With two trips to the Finals under his belt – a win and a loss – Curry has come to the stage in his career that individual awards matter less, and championship wins, more. You can see in his demeanor that the regular season has become a slow burn for him, with his sights are set clearly on the Finals.
Is Curry going to win the MVP this year? If the second half of the season chugs along the way the first half has, then probably not. James Harden and Russell Westbrook continue to lead the pack in that race. NBA.com‘s MVP ladder has guys like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Isaiah Thomas ahead of Curry right now.
But the question is, will Stephen Curry be able to turn up his performance for the Playoffs, and the Finals? Because that’s what he seems to be revving up for. And the rest of the league should watch out for that.